Monday, March 10, 2008

The Weekend and the Knowledge

It was a tough weekend. Leaving St Peter's was just as excruciatingly painful as leaving St John's was. Parish ministry is a self-giving journey -- the more you give, the more you get, and, at the end, the more you suffer the pain of departure.

It was a restless weekend for both of us. This morning we begin our second round of chemotherapy (Velcade+dexamethasone), dialysis and the usual appointments. Sabine has found some help in using "guided imagery;" not only the relaxation and stress-reduction elements of it, but also its healing capacity as a form of centering prayer.

As I process all of this ahead of us, I am comforted by many of the wisdom teachings of Buddhism. (Many of you know I have a number of close friends who practice the dharma.) And what I have found helpful is the concepts: mindfulness, illusion, detachment, and suffering. None of these ancient wisdom teachings were, of course, unknown to Jesus and the apostles.

So this journey with Sabine has to be one of the strangest spiritual experiences I have ever had.

It goes something like this: Within this most terrible and frightening time in my whole life I have this experience of God. Not like the God I used to know... a God that I thought required some structured "something" in my spiritual life of pursuing, seeking and getting to know that God, but rather a deeper, more knowable, and everlasting God.

I now have this experience of being covered, surrounded, even engulfed or immersed by that God. I sense God's presence daily, hourly, even this minute. It is the "lovingkindness," "steadfast love" of the Bible -- I believe the Hebrew word is "hesed." And it is eternal and everlasting!

So I go about my day with this strengthening -- this deeper knowing -- some even call "hesed" the "generous, gracious masculine side of God." Now I don't know if this is somehow a gender-related feeling or not, but what I do know (like the blind man whom Jesus gave sight to in John 9: in the gospel reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent) is that this has happened.

And like the blind man in the story told the authorities: "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." I can with confidence also say, "One thing I do know, that though I often felt distant from God or not worthy, now I don't!"

So within this terrible event in our lives, God did not distance God's self from us, nor did we run away. It was sort of a stare-down with God for me and God won my heart again by an even deeper revelation of God's self.

Keep us within your thoughts and prayers -- we both feel bouyed up by them!

May each one of you, too, be blessed on your journey -- it may not take you to where you have planned, but a journey it still is and it can be a journey filled with God!